Tag Archives: solidarity

Their motives

TW: racism, nativism, heterosexism

Alex Pareene over at Salon has an interesting piece up about why precisely the Republicans in the US Senate are egging on Democrats to choose between getting immigration reform done without provisions for queer families or making no progress on the issue at all. His take seems to be that the Republicans are opposed on the basis of three major, distinct issues: their contempt for their Democratic colleagues, their contempt for queer and genderqueer people, and their racism towards the undocumented specifically and immigrants generally.

While, I’ll grant Pareene that all of those forces can and often do operate individually, the last two seem uniquely capable of interacting in harmful ways that the Republicans would be particularly interested in exploiting. Yes, exploiting – as I mentioned above, this is very effectively dividing progressive organizers as an issue, with MoveOn putting out videos about why this and other issues need to be ironed out of the bill before its passage while America’s Voice is calling for people to thank Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) for guiding the bill through the editorial process as he did (while allowing the inclusive language he added himself to be stripped from it).

This has actually been an explicit goal of many overtly heterosexist groups for years now: to divide the modern progressive coalition into groups motivated by opposing the patriarchy (in this case, queer people) and those motivated by opposing White supremacy (in this case, predominantly Latin@s and other people of color). An inevitable outcome of that, of course, is that queer people of color and women of color are made uniquely vulnerable, as the political process is forced to choose between protecting them from racism or shielding them from patriarchal oppression. In this case, that’s the space many queer Latin@s find themselves in – as “burdens” for the at times gender normative reform movement to consider and tokens for the heavily White-dominated queer and genderqueer advocates to potentially extend a hand (maybe).

(A declaration of existence, from here.)

Beyond that gross game of divide-and-conquer that the Republicans seem to be playing, there’s also the simple question of why they’re permitting immigration reform to go through in the first place. As often mentioned here, immigrants are repeatedly asked to prove their usefulness or be worth the cost, which seems to tie into the current exploitative conditions many undocumented immigrants currently work within. Reform needs to have a proven benefit to non-immigrants to justify the loss of a “below the law” labor pool. But that labor pool has certain defining features – frequently they provide hard physical labor, which doesn’t mix very easily with frankly flamboyant stereotypes of queer and genderqueer people.

It could be a simple as Republicans thinking that there are no queer and genderqueer people within the labor pools they’re negotiating with.

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Luke Russert officially does not get it

TW: sexism

I’ve written before about the incredible potential the 2012 US elections showed – namely that a huge (and growing) coalition of various social groups working in solidarity with each other can and will win elections. Earlier today, Representative Nancy Pelosi announced that she would attempt to represent that coalition in the House of Representatives. She held a press conference surrounded by newly elected women, many of whom I’ve already gushed about – like Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, Kyrsten Sinema, and Tammy Duckworth.

Nancy Pelosi
(Nancy Pelosi, speaking earlier today. Originally from here.)

Like those three, many of them were more than some of the first women ever elected to the national stage by their districts or states. But many were also the first of another marginalized social group, whether a religious minority, LGBT* person, or disabled person. In running to be the representative of this mixture of identities unified by a need for society to finally acknowledge them and address issues significant to them, Pelosi was taking a stand about what kind of a political force the Democratic Party could be, should be, and if she has her way, would be.

And then Luke Russert asked the question that’s still setting the blogosphere ablaze:

“Mrs. Pelosi, some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having younger leadership. It hurts the party in the long term. What’s your response?”

Yes, he actually said that. We can of course break down the sexism embedded in that – that he avoided calling Pelosi by her earned title, that he presented his opinion as factual (“It hurts the party” not “allegedly hurting the party”), and that there’s a clear political message sent in highlighting the age of a female politician (which is clearly lost on Russert).

But what’s more, it treats the diverse coalition that Pelosi has spent years building as a stage prop. It’s not of importance, unlike the ostensible House Minority Leader’s age. The ally that Pelosi is for people of color, to LGBT* communities, to disparate religious groups, and to disabled people is frankly irreplaceable for the time being, but apparently that fact is like so many irrelevant to Luke Russert. In fact, the only portion of the coalition that Russert potentially even belongs to is the “young” as he’s not even thirty years old. And lo and behold, it’s the issue that he raises – age!

What we have here is the antithesis to the solidarity-focused politics of the Democrats. In Russert’s mind, evidently, when these sorts of issues of systemic power matter tends to be when they affect him specifically and directly. When they don’t though, they’re irrelevant or something he can perpetuate without a thought. It’s the opposite of solidarity. It’s narcissism. This wasn’t a mistake, but Luke Russert saying all too clearly what he really thinks.

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2012 is the new 2008

TW: racism, heterosexism

For a long time, right-wingers — and some pundits — have peddled the notion that the ‘real America’, all that really counted, was the land of non-urban white people, to which both parties must abase themselves. Meanwhile, the actual electorate was getting racially and ethnically diverse, and increasingly tolerant too. The 2008 Obama coalition wasn’t a fluke; it was the country we are becoming.

– Paul Krugman, in an article written in the wake of the election Tuesday

I’m not sure why, but people often seem very eager to declare major events as the ‘end of history’ or something similar. Whether it was academics talking about the containment and disintegration of the Soviet Bloc creating a post-conflict world or political strategists arguing that Republican-brand conservatism is the end-all-be-all of US politics, we’re all quite quick to declare temporary changes to be permanent, irreversible trends. That being said, I think Krugman is in the right here. 2008 was the first sight of something new on the political landscape, and 2012 is a clear sign that it’s not going away with any speed. What I desperately hope, however, is that it keeps growing and changing and improving itself, because 2012 might not look it, but it’s been a much sturdier and impacting victory for less powerful Americans.

This goes against the simplest electoral math, of course, since in 2008 the Democrats (and Senate independents) swept the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. But did liberals? The House was notoriously full of “blue dog” Democrats that leaned rightward enough that they helped the Republican Party water down and then almost destroy health care reform. The Senate was and to this day remains impotent as a result of the filibuster. The President who was elected was unfortunately quite beholden to his campaign contributors from the financial industry that donated to him quite handsomely.

This year’s election, admittedly doesn’t necessarily fix these problems, as the House is still under Republican control, which may prove worse than the mixed bag of Democratic rule, and Obama shed a few electoral votes. Still, we could always pull out the nuclear or constitutional option in the Senate and its notable that this year Obama won without the strings attached by Wall Street. If this year has been a limited victory, it seems about as constrained as 2008 was. Both years have honestly been a bit of a wash in terms of the means progressives acquired to implement their vision for the country, but 2012 has seen a small but important improvement over 2008 in terms of what that vision was: solidarity-driven.

I’ve written ranted here before about the central place that we have to provide solidarity in modern progressive politics, but I think nowhere is that more obvious than in comparing the 2008 and 2012 elections. 2008 was, from its primaries onward, marinated in denying the existence of intersectionality or the need for solidarity. For far too many voters, the choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for Democratic Presidential Nominee was equated with choosing between combating sexism or racism. A small but vocal number of Clinton supporters treated Obama’s eventual victory as a sign that racism was seen as more serious than sexism.

Then, in the aftermath of California’s narrow approval of Proposition 8, which added to the constitution the definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman”, Dan Savage and other pundits argued that Black voters (and occasionally Latin@ voters as well) were fundamentally responsible. Savage even directly stated that he was “done pretending” that anti-Black racism was “a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color”. One of the most prominent responses from the Black community to this insulting argument contained the admission “I had some personal misgivings before casting my vote against. Perhaps gay rights activists needed to better explain […] how a No vote wouldn’t affect schools or teach children about gay marriage.” Apparently, allowing same-sex marriage was apparently just within the lines, but having schools acknowledge the existence of LGBT* people was beyond the pale. Just as Savage required Black voters to prove their worth to him, Roker lamented that marriage equality advocates hadn’t done a good enough job proving their worth to straight audiences (of various races).

From start to finish the elections in 2008 seemed to butt into this dynamic time and time again: of different disenfranchised groups competing for acknowledgement of their struggles and assistance in overcoming them. In some ways, it’s a miracle that 2008 wasn’t a disaster and progressives were able to be unified enough to challenge conservatives in many contexts.

2012 was completely different. Obama’s presidential reelection was driven by many issues, but among them was his administration’s attention to the needs of women. Repeatedly, he or his campaign would reiterate that they perceived abortion and contraception as the choice of each woman, not of politicians. Likewise, they highlighted his effort to end wage discrimination both with better laws and stronger enforcement of them. And of course, this graphic came up frequently as well:

Insurance Discrimination against Women will be nationally banned in 2014 by Obamacare
(Originally from here.)

But this was more than a phenomenon playing out on the national stage – there were a number of local elections that provided us in 2012 with smaller but more varied “first” Senators or Representatives in comparison to the also historic first Black President in 2008. In almost every case, what created these landmark elections was that the elected officials belonged to multiple groups. In 2012, we saw intersectional candidates begin to win, whose own identities challenged the bitter rivalries that were so prevalent in 2008.

Until very recently there were virtually no women in the Senate or House, and while the 2012 elections helped improve that, there’s still a ways to go before the representation in federal government is actually representative. Among the women elected on Tuesday, however, were Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono, Tulsi Gabbard, and Tammy Duckworth. But those four are all members of other chronically underrepresented groups in Congress as well. Baldwin is also the first openly LGBT* Senator in US history. Hirono is the first Buddhist Senator and Gabbard is the first Hindu to ever be elected into Congress. Tammy Duckworth is the first disabled woman and disabled person of color to have the honor and duty of representing constituents in the federal government. Joining her in the House of Representatives is also Mark Takano, the first LGBT* person of color to hold office in either legislative body of Congress.

I’ve already quote Krugman once, but let me do it again: this is “the country we are becoming”. We are and have been diverse, and not just in terms of a variety of identities, but also combinations of those identities. Finally, our political process has stuck its toe in the pool and tried representing that, just a little bit. I, for one, say we should go forward even more.

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